“Best CD of 2007!” Indi Acoustic Project, Alt Country category
Singer, songwriter, bassist, and published author, Laura Love has thousands of fans throughout North America and Europe. Billboard Magazine continually includes her CDs on their annual top ten lists and the first time she performed on the East Coast was at Carnegie Hall. Laura released her 10th CD in 2007 on her label, Octoroon Biography. Titled NeGrass, it is an acoustic collection of traditional and original field hollers, Negro spirituals and folk songs, produced by Barbara Lamb and recorded in Nashville with some of the finest bluegrass musicians in North America. NeGrass features Laura singing and playing bass with Tim O’Brien, Tracy Nelson, Barbara Lamb, Jeff Autry, Scott Vestal, Rob Ickes, Mike Bub and Alice Vestal, most of whom are Grammy and IBMA award winners. There is a personal and historic theme to NeGrass. It is something of a family history – Laura takes what she knows of her great grandparents’ lives and imagines how it might have been for them around the end of the Civil War as they were being freed from slavery and embarking into an unfamiliar world. NeGrass is a lovely, heartbreaking and joyful piece of work.
Laura is a rare recording artist - authentic and deeply rooted, with an extremely diverse appeal. Her management, publicists, record labels and the media all struggle to define Laura’s style. She is an African-American funk bassist with an astonishing voice, who is equally influenced by blues and bluegrass, jazz, folk, gospel, reggae and country. Laura sometimes refers to her style as “folk-funk”, “Afro-Celtic” or “hip-Alachian”. Regardless of how she is described, Laura has an uncanny ability to get her audience to listen beyond their own musical boundaries. She often performs at festivals to older fans who have come to hear straight ahead bluegrass and by the end of her set, the octogenarians line up shoulder to shoulder with the pierced and tattooed and their middle aged parents to get their CDs autographed. It’s quite a site.
How did she get this way? Laura has an interesting story. So interesting, in fact, that Hyperion Books published Laura’s memoir, You Ain’t Got No Easter Clothes, in 2004. The book tells of her growing up in poverty and isolation in Nebraska in the 1960’s. Laura’s mother, Wini, had been a singer in her father’s jazz band. Preston Love enjoyed a bit of success in the hot climate of Midwest jazz in the ’40s. He played sax with Count Basie, Lucky Millander and Johnny Otis and formed his own band in the ’50s. He fathered two girls with Wini but never married her, as he had his “real” wife and children to consider. Wini was not well and spent time in mental institutions while Laura and her sister bounced around in orphanages, foster homes, convents and homeless shelters. Laura was told that her father had died when she was an infant and the book reveals a surprising turn of events as Laura comes of age. This is a harrowing tale, indeed, but told so well with Laura’s trademark wit and insight, that the book is a pleasure to read.
Laura had an enormous will to survive her difficult childhood and that spirit burns bright in her today. That strength, combined with her far-flung musical influences and enormous talent, make Laura a remarkable and unique performer.
On stage, Laura’s voice soars into the stratosphere, she wisecracks with her side men and women, she might mention a local issue, she dances as she snaps her funky bass and no one who sees this is ever the same. Laura is whip smart, down to earth, funny and warm. It’s a winning combination, as evidenced by the long lines of fans waiting to meet her after every show as she tours throughout North America, Australia and Europe.
So, what do you call a style that incorporates folk-ish melodies, a wall of harmonies, funk bass and acoustic instrumentation with leanings toward bluegrass, jazz, country and rhythm and blues? It doesn’t matter what you call it - Laura Love survived many personal difficulties to get where she is today. She is happy and grateful to have a life that allows her to tour the world playing music and her joy is evident every minute that she’s on stage. And that joy, for Laura and her audience, is all that really matters.